6 ways to reduce donor churn and save 48k in lost donations

7 November 2016

There are two types of donor churn

  1. Donor churn is the percentage of current regular givers who cancel their giving in a month.

  2. Revenue churn is the change in revenue from current regular givers. 

The nirvana of regular giving would be to achieve zero donor churn along with a negative revenue churn. Negative revenue churn can occur by increasing the average monthly giving amount for new donors, increasing the average monthly giving amount for existing donors (risky tactic), or both.

Depending on the donor acquisition channel, an average stat we hear from nonprofits is their donor churn hangs at around 4% each month from face to face fundraising. Doesn’t sound too bad? Yeh it’s bad. - that’s 48% per year (0.04*12months). Let’s say you’ve got a database of 1,000 regular givers which on average donate monthly for 2 years before moving on, and your average monthly giving donation is $50, that’s starting to look like $48,000 in lost donations ((1,000 *0.04) *$50 *24 months).

In this example, your organisation would need to acquire 960 new regular givers every 2 years (40 each month) to net out at a neutral donor churn rate. That’s almost the equivalent of having to replace your total regular givers every 2 years.

For some of the larger organisations with a database of 50,000+ who can experience a 50% donor churn rate in 12 months of regular givers acquired through face to face, this amount could be as high as 2.4Mil after 2 years.

It’d be awesome if there were some quick tactics to minimise donor churn, and aim for a negative revenue churn, but the truth is it all starts with the first contact a donor has with your organisation right through to the point when the cancel their regular giving. Churn isn’t a problem at the bottom of the funnel, it starts at the top. So look down the funnel and improve all the contact points a donor has with your organisation - the aim being to surprise and delight them to ensure they feel empowered being part of your organisation’s story.

Start by identifying your best donors to get more of the same into the top of the funnel.

Know who your best regular givers are and go after more of them.  Once you’ve identified your best customers, your goal is to reach more of the same. 

1. Setup Facebook Custom Audiences

After identifying your most valuable supporters, export them and upload them in a CSV file to Facebook using Custom Audiences and target people who share common characteristics as them, and even friends of theirs.

2. Use Re-targeting

Tools like Adroll, Perfect Audience, Facebook, Google Re-marketing and others will cookie your site’s visitors, allowing you to then setup retargeting rules based on segments, a combination of pages visitors go to (for example, ‘went to the /donate page but did not get to the /donate/confirmation page).  

You’re then able to target those visitors around the web on with messaging relating to the content of the pages they visited. For example, you’ve got a flagship online peer to peer fundraising event in full swing and are going after volume of participants, imagine a supporter starting the registration flow but not finishing (e.g went to /eventname/register but never made it to /eventname/register/confirmation) you could re-target these people with messaging geared around the benefits of registration.

Those familiar with Funraisin’s URL shortener will know that it tracks clicks through to donations, event registrations and much more, to show an ROI on each link, but we’ve taken it a step further giving you the ability to add a retargeting pixel against a link too.

This means you’re now able to retarget an event participants supporters through Facebook, display ads, even Adwords (using advanced configuration of your Adgroups).

Here’s where it gets even more interesting - imagine you’ve got a big event coming up and are working with some major corporate partners, supply them with links you generate for them to use when posting in social channels, on information packs etc. You’re now able to retarget (down to a link level) everyone who clicked on one of those links even if they haven’t visited your site. This is a massive advantage in being able to significantly increase your reach of potentially qualified leads you can now communicate with through retargeting - all for free! Another use of link retargeting could be giving specific links to a corporate for them to distribute to staff regarding workplace giving with your organisation.

Now that you’re acquiring the right donors, onboard them beautifully with email.

Far from the only method to retain donors, the aim of onboarding is to focus on meeting or exceeding the expectations they have with what their donation is going to deliver for your organisation. Try and associate immediate value with your organisation as that will help retain donors in the short term.Here’s how we typically tackle onboarding...

3. Create Welcome Emails

Keep it simple. Don’t overdo this one and cram loads of information into this email. Personalise it, thank them and confirm the impact they’re making on your mission (tie it back to their donation amount if you technically able to).

4. Send Educational Emails

Yes, the drip campaign. Drips should be small, quick and only contain one key message per email. Your goal is simply to provide confidence your organisation is on its way to delivering its mission and reassure the donor they’re part of your story. Plan these throughout the donor lifecycle, with special emphasis given to the time period prior to your average donor churn length.

5. Impress Supporters When They First Login

If your site can allow donors to login and download their historical tax receipts, manage their subscription preferences, join or create a fundraising event, etc then this is a perfect opportunity to be impress. Don’t display an empty dashboard. Provide a clear path to what the donor should do next. If you can, personalise the content - this could be based on their location (perhaps an event is coming up in the city they reside, or a local get together near their postcode), their interests (have they participated in online fundraising before? If they don’t have an active fundraising event, suggest one they could join to make a greater impact).

Is there an opportunity for them to quickly refer your organisation to their friends, family or colleagues from within their dashboard? If so, make it super easy for them and have default copy and imagery they can choose from when they make that referral.

6. Call Them

The power of simply picking up the phone and having a quick chat with a new donor to check-in can outrank almost any other method listed here. And the best thing is, it’s two-way – you get a ton of valuable feedback at the same time. Make this a ‘must do’ at the right stages of the donor lifecycle, and again with special emphasis given to the time period prior to your average donor churn length. Record your conversation notes in your CRM, and depending on the outcome of the conversation you should be considering which user journey these supporters can now be taken through (i.e, educational emails, etc). 

How have you reduced donor churn?

Reducing donor churn is perhaps one of the hardest things to do, and one of the most time consuming. Yep, it’s a never ending process of segmenting, learning and optimising. That’s why I’m keen to hear from organisations and agencies on how they’re tackling the problem.

What tips and tricks can the rest of us take away from your experience? Drop me a mail and let me know! 

Join newsletter